Texas Business reports: The family owned Tony DeMaria’s Bar-B-Que in Waco, Texas has an out of the ordinary philosophy. The establishment’s owner, Geoff DeMaria, son of former owner, Tony DeMaria, understands the importance of fresh food and intends not to waste it.
Geoff cooks the meat in the morning, and tries to gauge the amount he will sell. Most of the time, they end up selling out of bar-b-que before they close at 2 p.m. Only open for lunch, frequent customers know to get there early, before Geoff places the lime green “sold out” sign in the window.
“We sell out because we start fresh each morning,” Geoff said. “That’s what my dad did, and that’s what I do.”
“Don’t try to come later without calling first,” Elizabeth, Geoff’s wife, said. “I am his wife, and I didn’t get fed one time.”
Geoff said most people don’t get upset if they are sold out, but instead come back the next day at an even earlier time to make sure they get their own helping of bar-b-que. The line is often out the door, but the staff tries to work quickly and efficiently in order to respect the customer’s lunch hour.
The restaurant essentially closes when they sell out, and the family and staff usually sit down to relax and eat their own lunches before cleaning up. DeMaria’s has a laid back atmosphere, stemming from the family’s relaxed personalities. Geoff’s wife, Elizabeth, son, Blake, and nephew, Anthony help operate the restaurant alongside him.
Though DeMaria’s homemade gravy is popular, their biggest draw is their meat, cooked in a unique spice juice. Geoff still uses the same recipe his father used in the 1950’s.
“If you want meat, you come here for meat,” Geoff said. “This probably isn’t the place for you if you don’t have a hearty appetite.”
Wednesdays are all-you-can-eat ribs for $9, and it is the most popular day at DeMaria’s. Geoff makes 140 pounds of ribs in the morning, and by 11 a.m. there is usually a line out the door. Loyal customer and local minister, Deryl LeBlanc, has been coming every Wednesday for fifteen years. He said many people start arriving as early as 9:30 a.m. so as not to miss out.
“The ribs are pretty good,” LeBlanc said. “Actually, for me to be going each week, they are really good. The ribs just fall off of the bone and are extremely tender.”
LeBlanc said the food is always consistent, and that he has never had a bad batch of meat.
“I choose it over other bar-b-que joints because there is simply no comparison,” LeBlanc said. “The prices are cheap and the food is good. It’s pretty simple.”
Geoff’s father, Tony, opened the original grocery store and meat market in 1946. A few years later, they started serving bar-b-que to the construction workers building I-35. Soon after, it became solely a bar-b-que establishment. Geoff took over from his father in 1984, having always hoped to work in the family business. He even told his wife, Elizabeth, on their first date his hopeful plans of making the family business his career.
Geoff has made subtle menu changes since he took over for his father, but has kept and treasured the tried and true formula of fresh quality and reasonable prices. One has to wonder how the restaurant has survived all these years with little change, but when talking to customers it is easy to see that once people start eating at DeMaria’s, they usually don’t stop. The consumer base extends to generations, and Geoff often has customers tell him they remember coming in with their parents or grandparents when they were young.
Geoff has a passion for his job, and he said he is not too concerned with the competition.
“I don’t really see the other bar-b-que restaurants as competition,” Geoff said “I am doing my own thing down here, and they are doing theirs. I don’t play that game.”
Though the restaurant has a website and a facebook page, DeMaria’s is mostly discovered through word of mouth. Geoff did start a full-service catering business this year in order to expand the business. While he does not usually seek out large-scale changes, he and his wife enjoy helping with parties and events. So far it has been a good experience for the business.
DeMaria’s is located downtown near many local businesses, making it a prime lunch spot during the week. Geoff’s wife, Elizabeth, said the restaurant has a community feel. Most of the tables are large enough to seat big groups, giving way to fellowship when the restaurant is busy. Geoff has loyal customers from all walks of life, ranging from construction workers to businesswomen. He sees many people on a weekly or even daily basis and enjoys that his clientele become his friends.
“People complain about going to work, but I don’t see it that way,” Geoff said. “I enjoy going to work and seeing the people. I can’t complain.”
Tony DeMaria’s Bar-B-Que is located at 1000 Elm Street in Waco, Texas. The restaurant is open for business Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.